Though the Georgetown University Arts Week began slowly with a sparsely attended arts forum, the tenacity of its leaders and the passionate performances of its participants resulted in a light-hearted and highly creative five days. In a much-needed attempt to foster the arts scene at Georgetown, students with diverse artistic backgrounds came together to celebrate the ways art can empower and enlighten the human experience.
Arts Forum: Small but Mighty
Perhaps because of the last-minute location change from the Arrupe Multipurpose Room to a starkly lit room in the Reiss Science Building, the kick-off event of the GU Arts Week, the “State of the Arts Forum,” started out slowly. Several people arrived late and a few left early, which could not have been helped. However, the small audience quickly proved their passion and strong opinions would make up for their number.
The moderator Ahmed Latif began the discussion by encouraging participants to “express your joys, express your frustrations with Georgetown arts.” Though the rewards of artistic expression certainly may lead to joy, it became apparent in the first few minutes of dialogue that there are also many frustrations with the arts scene at Georgetown.
Foremost among student complaints was the over-controlling and expression-limiting Georgetown bureaucracy. Alex Mitchell (COL ’18), executive producer of the Georgetown Improv Association, felt that this bureaucracy forces students to think outside the box and tap into their creativity.
“The fantastic bureaucracy that we have does something very interesting,” Mitchell said. “It encourages people to be truly ambitious and to be self-starters when it comes to things artistic on campus. It means that people who do end up in the arts at Georgetown are extremely driven and creative.”
The flipside of this positive perspective is that the arts administrators are not working hard enough to make the arts accessible and visible for all, according to Mitchell. He immediately noted the limited artistic environment when he first came to Georgetown.
“I was very frustrated because I was like where are the creative people? It is so pre-professional. It’s so pre-Deloitte,” Mitchell said.
Andrew Molinari (COL ’21) brought an interesting perspective to the conversation as someone new to Georgetown, pointing to Georgetown’s lack of resources for budding student artists.
“If I have a band and I want to start a show on campus there are very few resources for that. I feel like there aren’t very many arts-specific spaces on this campus,” Molinari said.
With the exception of the Davis Performing Arts Center, Poulton Hall and the art galleries, Molinari is right. Bulldog Alley and the LXR Multipurpose Room, both places where performances have been held in the past, are used by a wide range of other organizations like Georgetown University Boxing Team and Georgetown Club Fencing.
Toward the end of the hour-long discussion, the group agreed that two main points should be considered in promoting the arts at Georgetown: visibility and funding. Molinari again highlighted the need for better relations with Georgetown as a whole.
“A lot of the discussion and ideas moving forward is how do we cater our art to the rest of the community,” Molinari said. “How do we get people to see us?”
Jemma Fagler (COL ’18), a member of Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, echoed his point. Speaking from the perspective of an actress, she discussed the restrictions of the limited arts audience at Georgetown given that many people respond only to popularized shows.
“Can we put on a show nobody recognizes? There’s a chance nobody is going to show up,” Fagler said.
Despite the thin crowd and room change, the arts forum turned out to be an incredible platform for students to share their ideas and opinions, many of which centered around frustration with the bureaucracy. Yet, there was also a general consensus that Georgetown encourages its students to be both creative and persistent. Hopefully, the arguments and proposals put forth during the forum will help spark a change in the Georgetown arts scene.
Uncommon Voices: A Spoken Word Open Mic
Finger snaps and light laughs filled the corner of Uncommon Grounds coffee shop on Tuesday evening as Georgetown students shared their poetry, music and comedy acts. Though the noise and lighting of the location made a truly magical open mic impossible, the content of the poetry and the comedy act made up for this. Poetry topics ranged from reverse exorcisms and heartbreaks to child crusades and summer antics.
Poetry novice Caroline Healey (COL ’20) approached the microphone with a small journal in hand, shyly telling the crowd she had committed to writing a poem every day of 2018 and asking them to pick the dates for her to read poems from. This encouragement of audience interaction kept the mood light and created a sense of community in the room.
Particularly memorable was event organizer Egan Barnitt’s (NHS ’21) performance of a poem detailing a past relationship, which taught her something extraordinary can happen in the most ordinary places. Her skillful pacing and intonation strikingly portrayed the intense feelings this relationship involved.
The true highlight of the night, however, was the honesty and vulnerability of the performers; each came without any false airs, presenting their ordinary student lives in entertaining ways using wit, and emotion to captivate the audience.
The student art gallery, which was scheduled to be in the Healy Family Student Center at 7 p.m., was cancelled due to inclement weather.